Our bodies need protein and if you enjoy meat in your diet, chicken is an excellent choice. You may enjoy red meat as much as I do, but chicken is an equally good source of protein, easier to digest, much lower in fat and calories, and typically has a short preparation time.
When you add in its versatility, you have a winner. There are so many main course dishes based on chicken, you will always have new ways to serve healthy, delicious meals to your family.
As an important part of your chicken cooking repertoire, we recommend the following methods to keep the calories at a minimum and contribute to a healthy heart.
Five Healthy Cooking Methods
You can have a flavorful, tender dinner in 20 minutes or less when you choose steaming. The prep time for this method is minimal and each serving is much lower in calories and fat because oil is not required.
White or dark meat? That is the question. White is healthier (and my favorite) with less fat and fewer calories, but many people prefer the richer, more moist dark meat. Whichever you choose, we recommend you use skinless, boneless pieces.
The secret to amazing flavors when steaming is seasoning.
You can layer the chicken with herbs and citrus slices for a tasty, tender meal. The acidity of citrus (lemons, limes, or oranges) will tenderize the chicken as it cooks.
Salt and pepper both sides of 2 medium chicken breasts, lay them in the steamer and sprinkle with 2 cloves minced garlic and a light dusting of chili flakes (optional). Top with the zest of a large lemon. Add the leaves of 2 sprigs of fresh thyme and steam until chicken is tender.
A mixture of paprika, crushed red pepper, and chili powder sprinkled over the chicken works wonders for those who enjoy spicy dishes.
Steaming chicken retains all the nutrients, so adding your favorite vegetables to the cooker creates a lovely nutritious meal.
NOTE: Be sure to use fresh, young chicken. Don’t skimp on cost and buy less than prime or your result may be tough and not-so-delectable.
This is one of my favorite ways to cook chicken because it makes fall-off-the-bone chicken that can be used in so many ways – chicken salad, chicken tacos, nachos, quesadillas, chicken-topped pizza, sliced chicken sandwiches, shredded chicken sandwiches, and many other possibilities.
Use boneless or bone-in – white or dark meat, they all work. Place the children in a Dutch oven or heavy pot, add one onion (sliced), a large celery stalk with leaves (cut in 2” chunks), one bay leaf, salt and pepper, and a large garlic clove. (These are my choices – you will find your favorites when you realize how easy this is.)
Add just enough water to cover the chicken (this is critical), bring the water to a boil, cover, drop to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes, just until chicken is tender. Most of the water will be absorbed into the chicken and vegetables.
Remove, drain, slice, and serve with a side of vegetables and a small portion of whole grain pasta (or shred and use in any way you choose).
AND . . . Don’t throw away the broth, it is perfect for chicken soup, which cures all ails.
This is one of the easiest ways to prepare chicken and can be extremely tasty.
It is best to use boneless/skinless equally-sized chicken breasts – but dark meat can also be used if you prefer. Place the chicken in a lightly-greased oven-proof baking pan, season with your favorite seasonings and bake at 375° F. until chicken is tender and no longer pink in the center (~15 to 20 minutes).
When done, it’s best to remove the chicken from the pan and let it rest for a few minutes before serving.
Small potatoes and carrot sticks placed around the chicken during baking will absorb all the juices and make a complete meal when served with a crisp green salad.
Experiment with marinating the chicken overnight to add wonderful flavors to the meat – see the information below – Learn to Marinate.
Grilling is a delicious, low-calorie traditional American method of cooking chicken – especially during the summer months. It can be grilled in the oven (under the broiler) or on a BBQ grill on the back patio.
Brush lightly with melted butter (optional), sprinkle with freshly ground pepper, a light dusting of paprika and the juice of one lemon. Voila! You have a lovely meal when served with grilled potatoes and fresh asparagus. Don’t overcook.
little more preparation but is worth it. I use chicken tenders and cut them into small pieces, so they cook quickly. (Sprinkle with red pepper flakes if you like it hot)
This method takes a little more preparation but is worth it. I use chicken tenders and cut them into small pieces, so they cook quickly. (Sprinkle with red pepper flakes if you like it hot)
You will need a large cast-iron skillet, Dutch oven, or wok with a small amount of oil.
Cut up the chicken and vegetables of choice (broccoli, zucchini, green peppers, diced carrots, garlic, onions, etc.)
Add all the pieces to the hot cooking pan, season to taste – stir and cook until meat is no longer pink and veggies are tender. (Do not overcook!)
Serve immediately with steamed brown Basmati rice.
Learn to Marinate
Good marinade tenderizers the chicken, keeps it moist when cooking, and adds wonderful flavor without excess fat.
Tips for Marinating
- To keep the dish as low in calories as possible, use skinless chicken breasts – dark meat is higher in fat and calories.
- The skin adds 20% more fat. If you prefer the added flavor of cooking with the skin, remove it before eating.
- Marinating for suggested times below allows the juices to be fully absorbed and makes the chicken tender. Over-marinating can result in a less-then-desired outcome.
- Always discard the marinade once you have removed the chicken. DO NOT use it for anything else or you risk salmonella poisoning.
- For grilling from Foodnetwork.com – Marinated Grilled Chicken (a good one to start)
- For grilling from ModernHoney.com – The Best Chicken Marinade Recipe
- For a variety from GimmeSomeOven.com – 5 excellent choices
- Teriyaki Chicken Marinade: a simple sesame-ginger marinade
- Chicken Enchilada Marinade: a no-cook version of my favorite enchilada sauce
- Tandoori Chicken Marinade: a simple curry marinade that is big on flavor
- Honey Mustard Marinade: always a classic for you mustard-lovers
- Pesto Chicken Marinade: pesto sauce works just as well as a marinade!
After trying some of the above recipes or others that you can find on the internet, tap you’re your creativity and experiment – create your own recipes. There are many combinations of ingredients that make healthy, delicious chicken dishes.
Check out this article, How to Make Your Own Marinades from TheSpruceEats.com.
If you are pushed for time, use one of the gourmet bottled marinades from your local grocery store – read the labels carefully and avoid those filled with unnecessary additives.
Read this article in Prevention Magazine, Marinades: Your Meal’s Healthiest Friend for healthy bottled choices.